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[ # ] The desktop I want…
May 20th, 2007 under rengolin, Technology, Thoughts

Nobody is happy with its computer because new stuff come out every day. Every time I want more I stop and think that in the next day I’ll feel the same way. But, what if I could have the dream desktop, what would it be?

To define how would it be I started by the thing I really hate:

  • Cables
  • Fan noise
  • Hi-res to squeeze more windows on the screen
  • Uncomfortable chairs
  • Mouse

Then, I thought on a powerful and silent computer, definitely multi-core, and thin… really thin. Monitors all around, no cables at all and a very comfortable seat (not chair) is essential. Mouse is useless and the keyboard should be the slimmest possible and almost silent.

Wireless

Cables are the worst thing on a desktop. Notebooks are so much better on that matter but still far too uncomfortable to use, always looking down. Wireless power is getting of being real closer but still far away from commercial applications but unfortunately still the only true way of getting away with all cables.

If you have a wireless power transmitter in your wall, all the parts of a desktop (box, monitors, speakers, keyboard) could benefit. Also, exempting the power cord from the wireless rule would still allow to exist half of the cables in a desktop.

The rest is very simple: wi-fi, bluetooth and infrared can take care of all data, from keyboards and speakers to monitors and 3D virtual goggles.

Thin as a notebook

Notebooks are quite good on holding everything in a very narrow space, but there are two main problems with the standard approach, and one derives from the other: they are always underpowered because it’s hard to keep powerful CPUs cool and quiet.

Having such desktop but choosing for a Pentium M is such a shame. Also, multi-processed / multi-core machines are standard nowadays, choosing for less than two processors is not an option, I would say something about 16 cores, either 4 quad-cores or 8 dual-cores, doesn’t matter. This also helps keeping the machine cooler because you’ll most of the time use less than 16 and the heat will be distributed and more easily dissipated.

Also, fans are too noisy. You can get less noisy fans, at lower RPMs, but their size is huge and won’t fit in a very slim desktop. One solution is water cooling, but that would add more cables and conflict with rule number one. Another solution is liquid gas (such as nitrogen) in a closed cycle but to be thin it would have to be very well planned.

Monitors? Mouse?

When thinking of monitors, I had the opportunity to work with multiple monitors and liked, but the trouble in setting them up (in your desk) when related to your keyboard is never perfect and you end up using one monitor much more than the other.

Also, high resolution (1600×1280 or higher) is pointless. It gives you the impression you can fit more things in your screen but you end up maximizing your browser and console window instead of fitting more consoles and browses. The multiple desktop setting on Unix solves almost all problems but one very specific: the quick glance.

For development it’d be good to have multiple sources listings open where you could search and browse separately but view altogether with the other sources. For design, having all tools on one screen and the image on the other is great as well as rendering on one screen and still editing on the other (a thing that multiple desktops doesn’t solve if it’s running full-screen rendering).

Also for games it’s very important to look at things without clicking the bloody hat-switch and waiting minutes to get to the point you want and when you go back your aircraft (or car) is completely out of track.

The best thing is 3D virtual goggles, with movement detection but with an additional setting: whenever you move your head it moves the desktop in the other way. On Unix you can have two resolutions, one for the real thing (monitor) and other for the desktop, which can be much higher. This is specially good when you have a virtual goggle and can look around your desktop.

It also fits perfectly to games and parallel coding, as well as design. You can have zoom in and out, focus on the window you’re looking at (ie. follow mouse focus) and if there is also an eye movement detection you can really abandon the mouse forever!

The keyboard

The keyboard is essential for it’s where your hand will be 100% of the time (we had just retired the mouse). A good support for your wrist and elbow is required but the noise and the touch is essential. Some notebook keyboards are very good in response and noise levels but they’re too compact. A wider keyboard, with the keys closer to each other and with a bit less noise would be perfect.

A support for the keyboard is also a good idea. I hate to force my arm to match the keyboard’s position, specially if I want a very comfortable seat to be in. This support should be a strong telescopic arm, with all degrees of freedom you might need and that could fit on your seat without being a pain when you want to get up for a tea.

Some may say that, in a so futuristic computer the keyboard is also redundant for one can use voice commands to type but I find it very annoying. I refuse to talk to a computer that won’t trully understand me. The day it really knows what I’m talking about and act intelligently on what I say I may start talking to them, before that, a keyboard is all I need.

Comfy seat

The seat (not chair) is one of the most important part of the whole desktop. Unlike notebooks, the desktop won’t move too much and you should stay with it in a real decent place. Because you’re wearing virtual goggles and you have no mouse and the keyboard is in a telescopic arm you can freely lay down in what position best suits you.

The seat should be made of real leather and the room temperature should be controlled (otherwise you’ll sweat to death) and there should have speakers near your ears besides the head rest. A support for your feet and legs is also very important and all of that should be controlled via software from your computer.

Because very good algorithms have been developed to do surround sound using only two speakers and if you have two very good quality speaker you don’t even need a sub-woofer, that’s more than you need to have really good sound quality.

Of course, the chair must be wireless as well!


Read the Comments

[ # 21 ] Comment from Andrew Kaplan [June 2, 2007, 3:08 PM]

Interesting observations. Very thought provoking.


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